PM Lee’s banter with troops suggests that Singapore’s military exercise with Taiwan may not be scrapped anytime soon


Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s banter with Singapore Armed Forces soldiers undergoing jungle and survival training in Brunei yesterday suggests that Singapore’s military ties with Taiwan will not be severed anytime soon, despite pressure by China and speculation by political pundits.

A video of Singapore Armed Forces troops telling Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong that they are due to be deployed to Taiwan for training in January was recorded at the meeting yesteday, where the PM was heard confirming that the troops will be deployed to Taiwan in January, under Project Starlight.

Curiously, the video, reportedly published by The Straits Times, appears to have been deleted on Youtube a little while after it was posted.

Twitter user Bhavan Jaipragas flagged the deletion of the video on his social media accounts. Just before the video’s removal, Jaipragas had shared the video along with a transcript of what was said in the clip:

Jaipragas shared the clip at 4.52pm yesterday. The video was mysteriously deleted less than 20 minutes later, by the time Jaipragas updated that the video has been removed at 5.13pm on the same day.

Singapore troops have been going to Taiwan for training over the last 42 years, under Project Starlight – a programme between Singapore and Taiwan that was initiated in 1975 when Singapore’s late founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and Taiwan’s then premier Chiang Ching-kuo signed a deal to allow Singapore armed forces to train in Taiwan, given troops Singapore’s limited land and airspace.

The project has been closely scrutinised by China since its initiation. China has demanded that Singapore severe ties with Taiwan – which China maintains is a part of sovereign China – in November last year, when nine armoured troop carriers that were en route to Singapore after a military exercise in Taiwan under Project Starlight, were seized in Hong Kong.

Following increasing tensions between Singapore and China, PM Lee and several high profile ministers paid an official visit to China in mid-September. During the trip, PM Lee agreed to increase parliamentary exchanges with China and said:

“Our relationship has progressed, our cooperation had broadened and deepened, and there are many more things which we are doing together now.”

Political observers speculated that Singapore would cease Project Starlight following the successful visit to China, especially after Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said that mutual understanding between Singapore and China are deepening, at a news briefing.

He said that China and Singapore could look forward to a “more mature military relationship” and indicated that this will only be possible if Singapore severes military links with Taiwan:

“China is willing to work with Singapore to create favorable conditions to develop an even more mature military relationship
“I also want to stress here that Taiwan is an inseparable part of China. We resolutely oppose any country having any form of official exchanges with Taiwan or military links.”

Chinese state-run publication, the Global Times, was among influential observers who asserted that it was “inevitable” that Singapore military training in Taiwan would cease soon.

Global Times said the Chinese mainland has tolerated the “Starlight programme” for a long time due to historical reasons. The “illegitimate” nature of this programme means it will be increasingly difficult to carry on.

“At a time when the Tsai Ing-wen administration of Taiwan refused to recognise the 1992 Consensus and Singapore also turned its back on the Chinese mainland, the Starlight programme became conspicuously peculiar. Last September, when Singapore’s armoured vehicles were intercepted in Hong Kong on their way back from Taiwan, this programme was exposed.
“Taiwan wanted to use this cooperation with Singapore to prevent the latter from fully supporting the mainland. The US is fond of seeing Singapore and Taiwan maintain this bond, as both of them are its pawns.
“When cross-Straits relations were stable and Sino-Singaporean ties sound, the Chinese mainland tolerated the programme. However, this programme no doubt damages the one-China principle. The Chinese mainland reserves its right to change its approach to it at any time.
“Singapore has long sensed the short life of this programme, which is why it has leased a large training facility in Australia.”

News that Singapore will continue deploying troops under Project Starlight may pose complications to the Sino-Singapore relationship, and this may be why Straits Times video was deleted yesterday.

Exercise Starlight, Singapore’s military programme with Taiwan, is ending soon, claims China’s Global Times

“Lee Hsien Loong is not as skilled as LKY” – Chinese state media declares amid PM Lee’s visit to China


  1. SG’s main security partner & military ally is US, not PRC. Our xp with US is they will not interfere (much) into our domestic politics.
    Looking @ how PRC tried to intervene into NK’s political succession (causing Kim 3 Fat to be hostile), we can all guess how an influential PRC may similarly manipulate our internal issues.
    On a military angle, our SAF eqpt is compatible & easily used by US troops; we r almost a forward base in Taiwan for US to come in when necessary.
    Hence be it being domestic/foreign consideration, we cannot & will not disengage fr ROC.

  2. IF he has chosen to side with the yankees, then expect difficult times for singapore. he must realise that the yankees are a spent force. the future is with china and the sooner he realise it, the better it will be for us. look at the way the sultan of brunei treated him. not the place of honour which was usually accorded to his father!

  3. He’s suppose to stay firm n continue with Taiwan n Brunei. Why must take instructions from other country? No visions n foresights will lead other country to control U. Mean only good at forcing ur own people….then S’pore has useless leaderships. How to gain n earn respect from the world. Unlike LKY, well respected. I respect LKY too

  4. Can somebody advise me why Ho Ching is following PM on every trip and still collecting exorbitant amount of money from Temasek holdings as appointed CEO???
    How lovely it is to go for free holidays and still getting big fat salary while on frequent holidays?
    These people are getting millions yet expect us to be volunteers, are Singaporeans morons ???

  5. after kowtow visit still catch no ball(no clear part to play in OBOR) home, so Tw trg will continue. btw there are other ongoing plans like Malaysia’s new port, Thailand Kra canal/railway…so even Sg gave up Tw trg none of those will change or ceased. So no gain, no win win why bother to compromised! Strangely with all those big OBOR projects going on, suddenly prc announced wanted to control external projects funding?? interesting.

  6. There is more important things than just people. More important than money. More than life itself. Losing the way and getting back is very hard. Even planets move in a direction that creates the balance

  7. On one side LHL said Singapore respected the one China policy and respected China a sovereign country but still playing double side, is time that cut down or stop the Starlights in Taiwan, it is not a matter of listening to China but for economic sense, every countries is looking to china, with present Taiwan political stances Taiwan no brain Madam President is playing with fire and will bring disasters to Taiwan and the regions.

  8. Being a BG himself shud wear a proper attire that suited a military.It kind of weird wearing red.By nature he not a tough guy.A wrongly appointed BG during his father time will roped in a same species like him.

    • You know how a clown attire is? A jungle hat with red bright tee. A general do not even know the red is a no no. Bright colour in the jungle what are you teaching those soldiers at training ground. Anyone can snipe in other people’s land.

    • These two morons just want to be outstanding and be standing out from the soldiers in green given that they are not the one going for war eventually! A very genuine PAPER GENERAL without basic knowledge of military training in the jungle!

  9. Yeah who is this ho why keep following. She don’t even deserved to wear that red tee. She is just a major in the military and in the end damage Temesek investment on those investment projects.

  10. The issue, its just a training ground, am sure you have to pay Taiwan for its services, its not free. But many Singaporeans think, this is a overseas military base for Singapore for action against other nations which is not true. However, its a waste of resources and cost since Singapore is in no position to go to war with any nation or even take part in UN activities. Please correct me if I am wrong..

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